Asserting your boundaries – Four of Feathers

Today is a day for a time-out.

I drew the Four of Feathers from The Collective Tarot in my daily draw.

Of the four suits in this deck, the feathers, illustrated by Clio Sady, are the darkest.

The artwork is the most intense, often feeling really scary to me. There are a lot of shadows, a lot of raggedy wings, and the style is rougher and wilder than the other cards in the deck.


It makes sense, because feathers (swords in regular decks) correspond to the mind – and in my experience the human mind can be a pretty dark place. (Here’s a post all about that!)

Today’s card, though, doesn’t feel quite so scary.


Sure, it’s still ‘dark’. And if I described it, it would sound pretty fearsome. A shadowy tower on the horizon, a stormy purple sky and a swooping, swarming flock of birds, all wrapped up between four raggedy feathers.

Except this isn’t a ‘tower’, it’s the chimney of a primary school. And those are swifts, flitting about, preparing to go to sleep. And this isn’t a stormy sky – it’s sundown:

In Portland, Oregon, people gather to watch the Vaux Swifts go to bed in the chimney of an elementary school. … They look like a strange swarm of particles as they prepare to sleep and if you look down at the people gazing up, they are totally still, resting too.

Sady calls this ‘a structured space for peaceful retreat’, perfectly capturing how I feel about the Four of Swords/Feathers. For me, this is a card for claiming space to think and be, for restoring mental energy or gearing up for what comes next. It’s absolutely right to take some time alone to do this.

How is this different to the Two of Feathers?

This, too, is a card of retreating, of claiming some time alone (here’s a post about the importance of that ‘closing off’.)


Sady defines the difference in their description of this card, calling it a ‘developed manifestation of the same impulse’:

Where the Two of Feathers tends to … close others off for the sake of autonomy, [the Four] is about knowing what you need, feeling entitled to it and letting it be known. Boundaries serve you best when you feel okay about having them, and are able to get them across to others without apology.

That little note on boundaries is crucial. There is a gentle righteousness in this card, a message that it is 100% okay for you to take the space you need, whatever you need it for. There are other cards in the tarot for boundaries (for example the Four of Pentacles/Bones) but none have quite the gentle thoughtfulness of this one.

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  1. Kat says:

    I read your email (but not yet this article) just before doing my daily draw and felt 100% connected to the description you gave of the 4 of swords. My girlfriend and I are in the long winded process of a breakup and the 4 of swords seems to describe our current situation perfectly.

    Of course when I did my daily draw what came up but the 4 of swords. I must be more connected to my deck than I knew…

  2. Rochelle says:

    Beth – where on earth can I find the Collective Tarot. It seems to me with a good number of eclectic decks like these – I find a link and the authors/creators or whoever creates things – is “on a break”…. and it’s that way for weeks – months. what is the deal with all of that? any clue? can you help a girl out?

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